Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everything is Starting

It seems I'm not alone in feeling trapped by winter's doldrums right now. So, for all the rest of you who are feeling like I am, here is another piece of lovely that I turn to in wintertime. Perhaps it's a little early to be posting this (given that we've just gotten our first snow here in New York), but here's a poem by the incomparable Eleanor Rand Wilner, who told me and a class of writing majors at Goucher in 2006 that she wrote this in response to a friend who called and said, on a bleak midwinter day, "I feel like everything is ending, and I need you to tell me that it's really starting":

Everything is Starting

The snow is filthy now; it has been
drinking oil and soot and car exhaust
for days, and dogs have marked it
with their special brand of brilliant
yellow piss;
for a week after it fell,
the snow stood in frozen horror
at the icy chill, and hardened
on the top, and then, today, the thaw:
now everything is starting
up again—
the traffic flows, the place
where dogs pause, and sniff, becomes,
once more, invisible to us, and in
the gutters of our streets, a minor Nile
floods from the old drifts into the gasping
drains; even the sewers are jubilant
in the rush that foretells spring; the rats

dance along the pipes;
on all the trees,
the buds push against the sealed bark,
as if against the tight containment
of the past,
while deep in the Florida Keys,
along some slow canal, the manatees roll
heavily in the dark stream, the way that sleepers
slowly turn in dream, and the cranes look
up, unrolling their long necks, possessed
by restlessness just before
they fly...
light-years away, beyond the veils
of the Milky Way, out at the red edge
of creation, where everything is
always starting: there—a memory
shifts and gathers itself once more:
a memory of the time (if time it can
be called) when all that is the matter,
or all that matter is, is drawn into
one place, as if into a single thought,
and (unimaginable) ignites,
shattering the ageless night in which
the cosmos only dreamed,
and in the oldest memory
(of which I think
we have a share)
it was an endlessly unfolding flower
of fire—the rose of light that Dante
saw, its afterimage in the soul.
And from that flower, the seeds
of all the galaxies were
now, in our own, the snow recedes,
the buds will shatter the end
of every twig—as everything is
starting up again—the crocus pokes
its purple, furled, above the thawing
and when the local ember
of that first fiery bloom, our sun, touches
its silk with light, it will unfurl,
in perfect silence—unlike us, jubilant

and noisy, who never were the point,
but still delight in being
the sole narrators, upstarts of the dawn.

Eleanor Rand Wilner has published six books of poetry, including Tourist in Hell (2010), The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (2004)*, and Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (1998). In addition, her work appears in more than 30 anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Fourth Edition). Wilner’s awards and accolades include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Juniper Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.**

*"Everything is Starting" is the opening poem from The Girl with Bees in her Hair.

**Eff you, SOPA.***

***Seriously, though, buy Eleanor's books and support a ridiculously talented poet while giving yourself a present in the form of a really, really good example of how to do imagery and literary references right.

1 comment:

  1. Love the pic AND absolutely love the poem, thanks for sharing :D ... "the snow stood in frozen horror" - brilliant!! Shall go explore more of this talented lady's work, which I am sure will find its way into my Amazon basket :D

    Keep warm! We haven't had any snow - yet - in the southern half of Britain, just LOTS of rain!